Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ever So Slowly

by AJ

Gradually, step by step.. bit by bit... Im working out a routine that works with my current (low-intermediate) class. Ive done this by trying lots of stuff (trial and error) and by having many discussions with the students... both as a group and individually.

Finally we've arrived at something that seems to work for all of us, including me.

Our basic daily routine:

40-60 minutes: Basic Grammar textbook.
60 minutes: Audiobook (sometimes with accompanying text, sometimes audio only)
90 minutes: Movie Technique (watch scenes, pause often, teacher paraphrases & discusses new phrases, repeat scenes)

This approach seems an ideal balance to me. Though Im constantly bashing direct grammar instruction, I am not, in fact, totally against it. Its a matter of degree and proportion. I believe direct grammar instruction should be a SUPPLEMENT, not the focus of a language class. Also, Im with Krashen, Asher, Ray, etc... in the sense that I think BASIC grammar is all that should be covered in a direct, analytical way. In proper proportion & degree, this sort of grammar instruction can speed comprehension.. and thus serve as a valuable SUPPLEMENT to comprehension based methods (which should form the bulk of instruction and take up the bulk of class time).

Today we tried listening to the audiobook version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". We tried it without text, but this proved to be too difficult for the students. So Im going to buy the book. Ill use photocopied pages and review the text with them first... allowing us to go slow. Once students understand a section of the text, we'll listen to it. First we'll do so using the text to aid comprehension,... then we'll try it with audio only.

As a supplement, however, Ill be looking for an easier audiobook.... as Id like to give them some "audio-only" practice... at a level very close to their current level ("i+.5" maybe :)

At the moment, we are using "Supersize Me" as our movie. Its working well. Its a funny movie and has other benefits as well. First, its a documentary, so the English is VERY natural and conversational. Second, it covers an interesting cultural topic... one that students are already curious about... they are always asking me why Americans are so fat, why they eat so much fast food, and why portions are so big here.

The textbook is a fairly decent one too. Its a straight grammar one... with very clear and simple explanations. I prefer this to the BS books that try to put a "natural" gloss over their essentially "drill and kill" books. This book keeps it direct and simple (cant remember the name of the book at the moment).

And so, in general, the class is FINALLY starting to gel. Which just goes to show that, in the absence of other strategies, persistence will eventually pay off.